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Sequestration effects will last years

Degrading the Army’s readiness through budget cuts now will only be the beginning of the service’s problems from sequestration, the Army’s budget director said today to an audience of military members and defense industry professionals.

“The impacts are not immediate for the nation and not for the Army, but over time for these units who could not go and train, their readiness posture is eroding, and if we need them, if they have to be called upon, it will take us longer to be able to train them,” said Maj. Gen. Karen Dyson. “It will require more resources to get them back to where they were before we found ourselves in this situation.”

She spoke on a panel of leaders from the services, Defense Department and industry today at the EAST: Joint Warfighting 2013 conference in Virginia Beach, Va.

The biggest problem the Army has now in terms of budget issues is with the overseas contingency operations account, she said.

“Our problem is the Army is the executive agent for funding the warfight, and the budget we have for fiscal year ’13 is short about $8 billion,” Dyson said. The Army can realign funds to solve about $5 billion of that, which leaves the Army with a $3 billion bill for the war fight, she said.

“The only place we can go is into operations and maintenance accounts, which will further degrade the readiness of our units. That is our biggest challenge that we see today.”

The Army’s prioritization drill led to cuts in maintenance on some equipment, some of it coming out of theater, and maintenance on facilities. The service also cut some combat training center exercises and some command and staff training exercises, she said.

Dyson said the Army is working on its strategy for fiscal 2014 but that will be affected by the challenges of ’13.

“We have absorbed sequestration for ’13 but if we go into ’14 in the same posture, under a continuing resolution, under automatic sequestration, we will have further degradation to Army units,” Dyson said.

People are beginning to take sequestration for granted, said Dr. Dov Zakheim, panel moderator and former DoD comptroller who is now with CNA Corp., who warned of a sense of complacency exacerbated by practices such as exemptions from furloughs.

“Defense is essentially collateral damage to a major campaign between those who want to raise taxes and those who want to cut entitlements,” he said. “Defense is not collateral damage.”

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